Gypsy Woman

Gypsy Woman

The landmark salsa imprint Fania Records was home to some of the most accomplished musicians of its era, but label head Jerry Masucci also kept his ear finely attuned to sounds from the streets. Although Fania’s resident arranger and producer, Johnny Pacheco, had studied at Julliard, the young singer Joe Bataan—whom Pacheco signed to Fania in 1966—had spent his youth in institutions of a different sort, as an inmate at New York’s Coxsackie Correctional Facility. The young Bataan began to focus on music, teaching himself to play the piano and learning the songs of the doo-wop and soul performers he idolized. Gypsy Woman was Bataan’s first full-length, recorded in a single daylong session only two years after Bataan’s release. The album features rough-hewn but extremely soulful performances from Bataan and some ragged-but-right instrumental work from his band of teenaged roughnecks, The Latin Swingers. The title track is a boogaloo-inflected workout of Curtis Mayfield’s indelible hit. The album’s other major standout is “Ordinary Guy," an underdogs’ anthem that would become Bataan’s signature tune.

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